Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Year Completed and a Week to Go

Yesterday marked a year to the day since I arrived in El Salvador.  I'll avoid typical comments like, "I can't believe how quickly it went", but I will say, this is without doubt, the year of my life where I have learned the most -- about me, El Salvador,  and the world.  I feel like I have been changed and I will never again see the world in the same way that I did a year ago.  I will be able to find joy in places I never looked before and I now know a new level of challenge in the lives of many people.

What a week this has been.  One of the things that seems to happen here is that foreigners feel more emotionally vulnerable.   For me it has to do with living in a culture and life where I only ever "sort of" know what is going on around me.  I have learned to live with the ambiguity but the stress of coping just seems to make my emotions closer to the surface.  Sure enough at a meeting this week I had to leave because I was going to cry.  I was just feeling overwhelmed with everything.  There is a lot of work to do with the elections.  Some of it is easy for me and some of it needs a level of Spanish that is really beyond me.  Being me, I feel frustrated because I can't get it done to the level that I want.  My teammates rallied and we have developed some new strategies and there are some new elections people arriving this week that we can put to work too!

That day, I decided to go for a "North American" lunch at Tony Roma's and bumped into another volunteer from the United States who "just needed a burger and fries" too and off we went.  I ended up talking to her a lot about my experiences at ADES and the people I have gotten to know, the impact the war had on them and why the elections are so important.  At times we were both in tears, but the discussion certainly reminded me why this work is important.  It helped to refocus my angst.  That was all on Thursday.

Friday was my regular day to go to ADES.  Lately, Fridays have been the highlight of my week.  There is a feeling of coming home.  Everyone is happy to see me, is interested in what I am doing and really makes me feel welcome.  They understand my Spanish (mostly) and are very eager to help me with the elections work in whatever way they can.   I bought a cake  (the cake is so amazing here, they put sweetened condense milk in the batter and so it is very, very moist) and we shared it as a way to say thanks for an wonderful year.

Yesterday a group of us went to a beautiful town in the mountains called "La Palma".  There is a famous artist named Fernando Llort (pronounced Jort).  His art style is very popular and is on almost all of the handicrafts made here.  5 women ranging in ages from me at 43-81 made the trip, with my favourite new tour guides.  Before I wax on about the tour guides, let me tell you about these women.  They are all Spanish students or volunteers at CIS.  Marilyn, the 81 year old is from Lakefield, outside Peterborough.  She spent last year travelling around India solo.  I have to say this group is an inspiration for me on how to age well and live a socially aware life!
L-R: Antonio, Lis, Andres, Marilyn (81), Ann (71), Jill (63) Linda (66)

A Door in La Palma, in the Llort style.

The breathtaking scenery of the mountains of El Salvador.

Of course, I need to tell you a bit more  Andres, Antonio and Lis, the tour guides.  They so continue to impress me with their professionalism, attention to detail and the quality of their service, not to mention they are cute and a lot of fun.  These young entrepreneurs are so much more than "transportation".  Andres spent time on the internet finding other places we could go in addition to La Palma, to make it a true day trip.  They are so attentive to the needs of the group.  Lis, sat in the back of the van with us and recorded all of the details of the trip - the time it took to get to each place, how long we spent, what we that they can review and revise.  As the tourism business isn't yet generating enough income they also have developed a food business and sell little shishkabobs, muffins and brownies to students at a local University.  I have a huge respect for the ambition and determination of these young people.

My friend Lenora arrives on Wednesday from Edmonton, Anneliese from Waterloo on Saturday and Lynn from Waterloo next Monday.  The Observer program officially  starts a week Monday on March 5th.  We have one more week to get it done and then after that, it just won't matter very much!  I am going to try and keep up with my blogs but don't worry if I miss one or two.  The next two weeks are just going to fly by!  Abrazos (hugs) to everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Lynn just dropped by your blog. it's been a while. love hearing about your experiences. just amazing. would love to have a phone chat sometime.